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Shame reviews 3

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Post by Admin on Sun May 13, 2012 6:12 pm

http://sequelpusher.tumblr.com/post/22992779675/shame-fassbenders-addiction-to-love

Shame: Fassbender’s Addiction to Love

Shame is a movie I did not have the chance to see in the Cinema which is a shame in itself, and it quickly became one of the most-anticipated DVD releases for myself in some time. I couldn’t wait to see it, I had heard good things and how Fassbender’s lack of Oscar nomination was a travesty and after watching it I must agree.

My knowledge of the movie prior to watching was the downward spiral of a man played by Michael Fassbender due to his addiction to sex, I knew it was Steve McQueen and this was the first McQueen movie I had heard of. I watched Hunger last week but Shame was the movie I was eager to see. I do not know why, it probably would have been a movie that fell by the wayside in normal circumstances. I saw the trailer before My Week with Marilyn and it really stood out. It looked great and Fassbender is becoming a huge sensation. But I had no idea what to really expect from this film.

I am still not quite sure what I expect from this film. I enjoyed it immensely and the talent throughout the movie really shined through. It is one of the most visually pleasing films I’ve seen and how McQueen holds a shot longer than is necessary really creates the uncomfortable atmosphere when you try to learn the true nature of a certain characters intentions, is truly masterful and has made me love McQueen’s style more-so. But this is not about the technique. This revolves around Fassbender’s performance as Brandon. His incredible ferociousness when Brandon was angry, sad, upset or focused really created the portrayal of a man who has become lost and is on the verge of letting his addiction define him. It is only after the arrival of Sissy does the addiction really start to implode Brandon’s life

Up until that point his addiction was just a part of his life, he could indulge it and just let it be a part of his life. But once Sissy shows up and he has someone he has to take care of to a point he becomes aware his addiction may cause him to lose his control, or harm his sister in a way he fears.

Brandon’s addiction seems to complicate itself once Sissy moves in, it used to be oh-so-simple for Brandon. but now that another person has entered his life that isn’t nor cannot be a sexual conquest, his addiction spirals out of the secure control Brandon had. He tries to find new outlets to quench his lust. But it isn’t enough until one night after a long run Brandon finally realizes he has to change, and my favorite part of the film is that we never find out if Brandon changes, the journey and the trips and the massive crushing wave at the end should be enough to pull anyone out of this illness, but the end sequence on the train things are coming full circle and we do not know if Brandon has gotten his life on track. It is a great sequence and Fassbender leaves you on the edge of your seat.

Overall I found the film gripping, raw, heavy and hard to watch at times (for good reasons) but the weight of this film would not have worked or been as noteworthy if McQueen had used a drug or alcohol addiction. The sexual addict is something that hasn’t been explored in years, but this film paints a picture of a man who’s life is thrown into a downward spiral after being tipped over the edge by his sister. A man was on the edge for a while but the arrival of a sibling upset his balance and that is what threw him into his descent, which is a pretty interesting exploration of a sibling relationship.

I say see it when you can. 5/5
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Post by Admin on Thu May 17, 2012 10:52 am

bona-fortuna:
At Loss with Addiction (A Film Review...of some sorts)

We are not bad people. We just came from a bad place.

image

It just happened.

I read a post by GQ. There, it mentioned why everything Michael Fassbender will always have innuendos. There, it mentioned a film whose trailer I have seen before, to which I promised to myself that I would watch, but have stupidly forgotten. Then, right after reading the article, I decided to finally watch it, but have also to remind myself that I should watch it alone, when everyone is sound asleep…because, Michael is going to show his p****. There, I said it!

Shame, directed by Steve McQueen (not the racer-actor, obviously), is a story of a man, Brandon (Fassbender), and his uncontrollable carnal urges. His world turns messier when his depressive sister (Mulligan) lives in with him as she “doesn’t have anywhere else to go”.

My first impression with the film is that it has an uninteresting plot- an addict is disturbed by his lonely sister. But then, upon watching the trailer, I knew I was in a for a good stuff- not only because of Fassbender’s exhibition of his junk, the frontal nudity of the actors, and the explicit sexual scenes, but also because there is just a little something behind his eyes when he looks at a woman.

And speaking of, the actors were all terrific. So terrific that it feels natural. I also enjoyed the fact that they are similar yet remain different. First, they are brother and sister, and both are struggling against hardships (i.e. his nymphomania, her depression)- yet he is more rational, she is more emotional; he is independent, she is dependent; but at least, she can love, he cannot.

And I think that is where shame roots- he cannot feel, or give, real intimacy. It’s a shame he can sleep with any woman he eyes on, but he cannot love. When asked how long was his longest relationship, he answered sheepishly “only four months.” And when he as about to have sex with this beautiful woman whom he dated, he couldn’t get it up. I’m not quite sure, but I think he has begun to develop feelings for her (hey, I’m not killing the mood with cheesiness, I’m just thinking that it is how it is as I saw it). He feels tormented by his sex addiction, now more than ever because he has his sister with him- a sister who needs her brother, her family, to love her. He felt trapped by her- trapped, because it used to be easy to bag women with no strings attached, and now that he has to show express love for his sister, now that he has to love, it becomes conflicting. A shocking point in the story, that which involved his sister, suddenly changes him for the better. Or not.

Overall, the NC-17 film is really worth the watch, especially for those looking for some talented acting chops. It’s a movie about sex that is not all sex—and that is good.
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Post by Admin on Sun May 20, 2012 7:24 pm

intotalstarkness:
Stark Reviews: Shame

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A harrowing meditation on self destruction and isolation from the team behind the equally powerful and similarly themed “Hunger”. An intense character study of a sex addict with minimal dialogue which communicates far more through visuals and music. Fassbender displays a range of icy charm, sleazy desperation, total anguish as his “Brandon” descends into increasing acts of shallow depravity to get his kicks. The concept of sex addiction has been frequently mocked in the media but the strength of this piece will no doubt provide greater recognition and awareness.
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Post by Admin on Sat May 26, 2012 11:39 pm

thoughtsarrive-likebutterflies:

Shame
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan

I’ve wanted to see this film since I first hear about it, and I was finally able earlier this week. It was completely moving. It was a very intriguing script - Fassbender’s character, Brandon, deals with sex addiction. His emotionally-broken sister, Sissy (Mulligan), stays with him for a while as they both work through their issues, together and separately. It wasn’t so much a movie driven by plot, or even by the controversial subject matter - it was driven by the characters themselves, and everything else was secondary. It wasn’t beautifully portrayed by the both of them; they showed such raw emotion it was hard not to feel as deeply as they were feeling.

I actually really liked the relationship portrayed between the brother and the sister in this film. The chemistry between Mulligan and Fassbender was exquisite. It was obvious to the viewer that something had happened to them; it was hinted that there might be something between them, but none of it was overdone. What I loved most was the intrigue that surrounded that relationship; we are never told outright what happened, it is up to the viewer to imagine the possibilities themselves. Going along with the mood of this film, I thought that was very, very well done.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this film, however, was the score. The use of music and silence was refreshingly well-crafted. The first ten minutes are without dialogue, and instead are filled with a big score. There are several spots like that through the film; where words are not needed or insufficient, the music takes over and enhanced the mood of the film.

It’s also worth mentioning that the cinematography of this film was brilliant as well. Nothing was overdone and there were some really artistic, beautifully created shots.

Everything about the film worked together to make Shame a work of cinematic art, at least in my opinion. I highly recommend this film; it needs to be seen.
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Post by Admin on Mon May 28, 2012 2:35 pm

rogue-asaliano:
Shame

Shame [Steve McQueen, 2011]

Asia Ellington/May 28, 2012

7.50/10

Here we are introduced into a man’s some-what troubling time in the middle of New York. Brendan, who was a man deep within his sex life, is all of a sudden side tracked by his younger sister moving in with him.

I’ll try not to beat around the bush on this, because I know this was something that was very much on people’s minds before, during and after the film. The sex. Yes, Fassbender’s character did have many women and exposed scenes throughout the movie, but I for one didn’t really think of it as much as a bother as one would think. I’m sure in movies, the sex might be too distracting, but in this case it only tried to help enhance the characters story line. Rather than being ravished and steaming, it felt very dry and emotionless…which is exactly how Fassbender portrayed it as. It was nothing more than something to add on to his addiction towards meaningless sex. Although I’m sure it wasn’t his intentions at first.

This is once again another one of those character plots where a man just isn’t able to connect with a woman in a closer meaning other than a one-night stand, with or without a paycheck at the end.

I must say, Michael Fassbender did a very nice job as he was the main character, a very good actor indeed. His emotions throughout the film had a very calm but strong demeanor, but there are moments you can see the development in depth when he finally breaks down. I’ve got to say, he was my favorite thing about the movie. Carrie Mulligan who played as Sissy, the younger sister, did seem like a promising role, as she tried to reconnect with her older brother, but ended up to over stay her welcome as she got too much of his life.

There was some potential that this film could have had, and the story could have been perceived in many different ways. But something that was on my mind whist watching, was that it was too slow paced and some scenes seemed like it was wasting time for better things to happen.

The film, as I have read from other people’s opinions, has been perceived in a couple of ways in the light of the brother and sister relationship. Some thought maybe there was a hint of incest? Well as I watched it, I wasn’t really sure how they thought that. Yes, they might have shared small intimate feelings toward each other, but that’s because they’re siblings!

Another thing was that they were abused children, which explains their rough relationship. I could see that there was some kind of family problems; although their childhood wasn’t directly talked about in the movie, there must have been some reason why they had been distant, right?

The plot itself could have been more powerful.

I felt like the movie was trying to hint and tell us the true meaning of it all, which don’t get me wrong, it did whisper it to us. But maybe it should have been more loud and clear?

Addendum:

The scores and music didn’t sound like anything new, but was very decorative and kept the tempo of the movie calm. Hopefully I can go back and watch it a little closer, and see the deeper meaning somehow. Although I didn’t think I would be this displeased, I would like to say that I did appreciate the overall theme and concept.
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Post by Admin on Thu May 31, 2012 7:17 pm

webbedlace:

(no spoilers, don’t worry)

As you guys probably know by now, I love films about f&%$#& up people (if you’ll pardon my frankness). I heard a lot of great things about Shame (yes, besides all the crap about nude Michael Fassbender, which I could really care less about, honesty… I was in it for Carey Mulligan, because I think she’s ridiculously talented and I wanted to see her playing someone gritty) and I definitely had to work up to watching it, but I finally got around to it tonight. It was definitely different, but I can see why it received so much acclaim (outside of awards, that is).

Shame, despite its title, does not flinch once. It is gritty, sometimes cringe-worthy, and often quite graphic, but not overly so.

Fassbender and Mulligan are absolutely phenomenal in their roles. Fassbender’s character, Brandon, is all at once terrifying and fiercely loving, but he’s got so much pent up aggression because of his addiction that he turns into a psycho when least expected. He’s a very unlikable character and that has nothing to do with his sex addiction (if you see the movie, you’ll know why), but I think it’s incredibly bold to put unlikable (but three-dimensional) characters at the dead center of a narrative. Carey Mulligan was as fabulous as ever as Sissy. I really loved her character: needy, wild, relentless, and a complete wreck: she just needs her brother. Their relationship is bizarre and at times very unhealthy, but it’s clear that they both care about each other very deeply. They just have no idea what to do.

All in all, I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who can’t stomach a grand few sex scenes and a few other graphic bits, but if you like gritty films that say a lot without literally saying a lot, you may want to consider it.
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Post by Admin on Thu May 31, 2012 7:18 pm

artsylessfartsy:

2012 Movie Challenge:

36. Shame

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a New Yorker who shuns intimacy with women but feeds his desires with a compulsive addiction to sex. When his wayward younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment stirring memories of their shared painful past, Brandon’s insular life spirals out of control. — (C) Official Site

This movie made me feel pretty empty after, so yeah, thats pretty powerful

Story: Ive never seen a film about sex addiction that wasn’t cheesy or a lifetime movie and this movie did it right. There was a lot of sex, a lot of p**** but overall, it made you empathize with the characters and you felt their struggle and you felt their pain.

Acting : AMAZING. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are flawless. They make this movie.

Visuals and Sound: Like I said before, there is a lot of sex and a lot of p**** but what would a film about sexual addiction be without seeing the actual problem? That would be stupid.

Final words : So this movie isn’t for everyone because it’s not an action film, its not a comedy, but its a realistic portrayal of sexual addiction and other mental problems. Its a real downer but a great film.

8 out of 10!
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Post by Admin on Fri Jun 01, 2012 10:28 am

stephsutton:
'Shame'

I finally saw Shame a few nights ago. It was an interesting evening, one that involved me having to figure out how to fix an Internet connection and update an Apple TV because my friend relies so heavily on her fiancé, who that evening was out of town. I also had to calm her down during the pretty long tremor we felt on the West Side, a moment I am very proud of. (Experience.)

Somewhere in the middle of that was Shame, which frankly, I was expecting to enjoy more. I just couldn’t connect with the story or any of the characters. Simply put, it’s a story of a broken soul who cannot escape himself. He also happens to have a sister, who is also a broken soul and is in desperate need of his care and attention.

Shame was probably one of the most depressing movies I’ve seen in years. And I really hate depressing movies. Being able to observe the life of someone who just cannot be rid of such a large component of themselves is terrifying. And I guess that’s what I had my biggest issues with. The fact that I never want to be in the position where I have no control.

Despite my feelings—or perhaps even because of it—the movie was really a great one. Fassbender was honestly robbed of that nomination. There wasn’t a second of his performance where I did not believe him and did not feel his pain. Mulligan I was a little disappointed by; she is talented, but at times seemed too over the top. Though it was an extremely interesting movie with great performances, I don’t think I could watch this again anytime soon.
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Post by Admin on Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:47 pm

donieisoblivious:
Not the Titan I expected, but still pretty good.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m under the belief that one of the working titles for the film was “Icarus” at one point or another. Having seen “Prometheus” last night, I can’t help but think that “Icarus” would’ve been a more apt title.

I’ll start with what I liked the most from the movie. Visually, it’s one of the most impressive feats of filmmaking I’ve seen since “Avatar.” Scott and his team have crafted a beautiful, incredible film. From the primordial world of LV-223, to the gleaming, high-tech ship, the entire film is a feast for the eyes. 3D has been skilfully used within the film too, and it really does benefit from it.

Michael Fassbender’s “David” is arguably the finest character within the film; an eerie, somewhat unpredictable figure, with an agenda all his own, and an endearing sense of childlike wonderment. Charlize Theron’s uber-bitch, “Meredith Vickers” is another one of the standout characters within the film. Noomi Rapace really does prove herself in this film, but she’s often bogged down with clumsy, wooden dialogue.

However, a lot of the other characters simply feel like they’re present to serve particular set pieces; narrative fodder so to speak. Scott burns through his cast, and never once do we feel any emotion for them. And therein is “Prometheus” pitfall; it’s a stunning film, visually, but it’s devoid of any emotion. It’s as clean, and well-polished as the ship from which it bears its name.

Another point I should mention is that if you’re going to see this expecting an Alien prequel, you will be disappointed. Prometheus is very much its own beast. That said, certain links, however small and minuscule, are established between this and Alien. Prometheus is more like a very distant cousin to the whole franchise, able to stand on its own.

Prometheus is good, it’s very good in fact, but it’s not the titan I expected. It asks more questions than it cares to answer, and some times stumbles through it’s own murky narrative. Prometheus aims to soar, but its clunky story and lack of emotion are its wings of wax and feathers so to speak, and its dragged back down to Earth just like Icarus.
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Post by Admin on Sat Jun 09, 2012 12:50 am

amateur-reviews:

Shame (2011)

- Written by Samuel Bush, Guest Contributor -

WARNING: If sex is an uncomfortable subject, this may not be the review/movie for you.

Prior to watching this film, I knew nothing about its plot or cast. However most should be familiar with Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. Both actors were appropriately casted for their roles, especially Fassbender.

It’s refreshing to see Fassbender in such an unusual role, however the character he plays (Brandon) may make most viewers feel largely uncomfortable. Within the first few minutes of the film, we come to terms with Brandon’s nature. Between male nudity, masturbation and prostitution all within the first 10 minutes of the film, its easy to feel tempted to turn off the television. However I think the graphic nature of this film is necessary to portrait the intense sex addiction that plagues Brandon’s day to day happenings. His destructive sexual nature inhabits all areas of his life and his cycle of sexual pleasure becomes interrupted by the arrival by Brandon’s sister (Carey Mulligan). Her arrival causes Brandon’s already shameful life to worsen which leads to the climax of the movie.

Both Fassbender and Mulligan do a convincingly well job of portraying their characters’ fights against their flaws, however the movie does has its flaws. I personally think the movie could have been trimmed down in a few areas and the excessive and graphic sex scenes do get old. As a viewer, I truthfully had no idea where the movie’s direction was heading until the last few minutes of the film. As with many frustrating endings, this one depends on whether or not you’re a pessimistic or optimistic minded person.

Through all its flaws, this movie is fairly cinematically unique. It was shot well and the light classical music was an excellent choice to accompany the dark nature of this movie. Between an excellent actor like Fassbender and the talented singing by Mulligan, you’re unlikely to find a movie quite like this.

3.5 / 5.0
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Post by Admin on Sat Jun 09, 2012 6:48 pm

seriesofdisappointments:
For "Shame"...

image

Now most people who know me know that I am a big fan of Michael Fassbender’s many charms. It all started in March of last year when I saw Jane Eyre; I am generally a tough broad, immune to the romantic schlock of glittery vampires and Gosling notebooks, but I have one Achilles heel that exposes my girly romantic heart and that is Mr. Rochester. And Fassbender perfectly captured the Gothic intensity that has been making girls swoon for 150 years. Then I followed it up the next day by catching the British indie Fish Tank, and before I knew it I was one of the multitudes (although apparently not as many as we think:http://www.vulture.com/2012/06/michael-fassbender-famous.html). So of course I wanted to see Shame, in which Fassy famously shows off his many uh “charms”.

But after watching Shame I will admit that Fassbender’s performance was as usual flawless and brave, but I really want to heap praise on the writer and director Steve McQueen. Not to be confused with the icon of cool, these pictures almost proves that there are two different Steve McQueens:

image

image

(although I’ve never seen them in the same room together)

I saw McQueen and Fassbender’s first collaboration Hunger and was blown away by the many ways in its quiet, non-narrative way it depicts humanity being noble. Shame takes it one step further because who is more ignoble than mid-town, douche bag, financial types doin coke and whores. And yet there it is…plumbing the depths if depravity but still moving me. McQueen is a director of private moments, much like Matthew Weiner has said Mad Men is a show made up of private moments. When done well these moments are not gratuitous or voyeuristic and Shame, while difficult to watch at times never comes across as either of those things. It instead has a meditative despairing quality as much a study of New york City as it is of these broken characters. Interesting that it was such a british production because it perfectly captured New York’s intoxicating mix of anonymity and opportunity open to adults who have power and riches to get what they want but not wisdom enough to get it.


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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 10, 2012 11:15 am

afterjanet:
Cinema from the Past #2

Shame (2011)

Directed By: Steve McQueen

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, & James Badge Dale

Though unintentional, I realize now just how appropriate it is to review Psycho and Shame back-to-back, despite them being drastically different films about drastically different characters. On the surface, they could not be more different, Psycho being a chilling horror film and Shame being a somber drama; and yet, they both seek to answer the same question: what do we really know about the people around us? Take Norman Bates, charming in a quirky way and so innocent on the surface. Who would have guessed he was a crazed killer who liked to dress like his dead mother? Shame introduces us to Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender), a handsome businessman with a polished wardrobe, a good job, and a nice apartment in Manhattan. From the outside, Brandon seems like the kind of guy any woman would love…but Shame takes us deep into his world, plagued by a crippling and life-consuming sex addiction.

When we first meet Brandon, his life has been carefully-assembled to fuel his addiction in secrecy. He has friends, but none that are too close to him - no one that would know enough about him to discover what he does in his spare time, like masturbating in the office bathroom or hiring prostitutes for one-night stands. When his troubled sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), arrives to stay with him, Brandon’s careful balance is toppled over, forcing him to finally confront his internal conflict in a downward spiral of events. Throughout Shame, Brandon faces the consequences of things that were once hidden being brought unexpectedly to light. Unlike Norman Bates’s knife-waving response, Brandon reacts by slowly losing (or perhaps releasing) his manufactured self-control. Take for example two contrasting subway rides. At the beginning of the film, Brandon is put-together and cleanly-dressed; he stares seductively at a flirty young woman across from him, smirking at her with an aura of self-confidence. At the end, the facade is gone; he sits on the subway, beaten and haphazardly-dressed, watching the same woman with a blank, lifeless stare. He is broken and alone, the ugliness that was once hidden on the inside now splashed blatantly across his outside.

The thing that elevates Shame above sheer exploitation is its honesty. Given that it is superficially centered around a good-looking man having lots of dark sex, imagine how this film would have come off had it lacked sincerity, both in its execution and its message. At best, it would have been a new-age Basic Instinct without the ice pick; at worst, a new-age Showgirls without the stripping. Alas, this is not really about sex; Brandon could have suffered from any other addiction, without disturbing the narrative. Brandon no longer enjoys sex; we see his pained face during orgasm…he has sex and masturbates so frequently because he needs to, just as a drug addict needs his or her drug of choice. Though we see many nude shots of Michael Fassbender and even more shots of him involved in increasingly-unusual sexual acts, none of it is even remotely pleasurable; co-writer and director Steve McQueen is very deliberate in how he portrays Brandon’s relations; if it had ever looked like he was actually enjoying it, the film would have suffered. The truth is that there is nothing pleasant about any addiction, not even the often-misunderstood and sadly ridiculed addiction to sex.

At the very soul of Shame is the gripping performance by Michael Fassbender, who has thankfully experienced a quick rise to stardom in recent months. If there is one thing a great actor needs aside from talent, it is fearlessness. Precious few actors working today would even dare to take this role, much less be able to bring such emotional depth to it. With all due respect to those nominated, I must agree with Charlize Theron who described his Oscar snub as “utter bullshit;” few, if any, of the nominated gentleman gave as groundbreaking performances as Fassbender does here. Alas, as is often the case with such profound but uncomfortable films, Shame is bound to isolate as many viewers as it attracts. It is not a fun or enjoyable film; it is difficult to watch. However, aside from a few pacing issues caused by some redundant sexual situations, it is technically flawless. After all, not every film is meant to make you feel happy, just as walking in someone else’s shoes is not always a pleasant experience. Seeing someone’s hidden life can be hard, especially when the person is so hopelessly lost.

9/10
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Post by Admin on Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:16 pm

theshadowgallerycomics
Let's do a double-dip into Fassbender with a review of SHAME.

To all of the actors we’ve been introduced to over the past few years, two that have made a significant impression have been Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. After seeing Fassbender in more commercial films like 300 and INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, he made quite an impression, and after seeing Mulligan in AN EDUCATION, I was totally taken with her talent and charm. Then I saw and was absolutely stunned by Fassbender’s performance in HUNGER (directed by this film’s director Steve McQueen), based on a true story of an Irish political prisoner who goes on a hunger strike. It was an amazing performance and probably one of the most affecting performances of recent years. Also continuing to shine was Mulligan in films like the haunting and underrated NEVER LET ME GO and my personal pick of best film of 2011, DRIVE.

But SHAME is a showcase for both of these great actors in incredibly bare (both figuratively and literally) and incredibly powerful performances.

Fassbender plays Brandon, a young professional in New York City. He is also a sex addict, and while some people play around with the idea of defining Brandon as such, it is absolute. He cannot function throughout the day without different sexual acts, liasons, and exposure to sexual input, and the level of danger that it can represent is of little consequence to him; It’s the same as being a drug addict or an alcoholic. Then comes along Sissy (Mulligan), Brandon’s less responsible and emotionally unstable sister as she invades his apartment and his life. She is an addict of a different sort; she craves love and attention and affection, and Brandon, being who he is, seems incapable of giving something of what she wants to her.

Fassbender plays Brandon as something of a predator; riding the subway, he scans the different people and finds a beautiful woman who smiles at him, but he never smiles back. He looks as her as if she’s a meal or a fix; something to sate his neverending appetite, and when she gets off the train, he pursues her in a very unsettling way. He is also emotionally empty inside and realizes it. He’s not a sociopath; he just uses sex to express all of his feelings and to fill the emptiness inside him. The closer he gets to someone emotionally, the more sexual encounters he requires, and this builds to a crescendo of self-punishment and more extreme sexual acts when he and Sissy have a massive fight about their meaning to one another. Mulligan plays Sissy as someone who is desperate for attention and affection, but in a more playful manner than Brandon’s predatory persona. She may initially appear as quirky and free-spirited, but is as equally self-destructive, seeking affection in places she knows she can’t get them.

McQueen, who also directed the marvelous and extremely unsettling HUNGER directs this film with the same level of attention to detail and with the same verve of the construction of a scene. He also knows how to direct a scene that is so incredibly tense yet be somewhat innocent at the same time and this is best displayed with two scenes: the scene where Brandon discovers Sissy in his apartment in his shower fully nude and his eyes linger perhaps a little too long at her and yet she allows it rather than covering up with the towel immediately, suggesting there may have been something in their past that has been more than familial; also the scene in which Sissy sings a very torch-song rendition of “New York, New York”, and the camera is close in on her face for most of the song, but cuts back to Fassbender, in obvious distress.

This film arguably doesn’t require the NC-17 rating aside from the casual male nudity and a few very brief moments of graphic imagery, especially since other NC-17 or Unrated releases within recent memory have featured full, unsimulated sex, like many of the films of Catherine Brelliat, John Cameron Mitchell’s brilliant SHORTBUS, or Michael Winterbottom’s 9 SONGS, but this film actually wears that rating like a badge of honor. The sex and nudity within this film is certainly not meant to titillate or excite or even to shock. It is there because it’s a vital part of the story of this character. It’s there because in order for us to understand, we have to experience on something of a similar and visceral level, and this film could honestly not exist without it. The sex and nudity of the film is not nearly as controversial as the actual subject matter is, and it doubtless will offend people, but the people it would offend really shouldn’t be watching this film anyway.

Both Fassbender (who is arguably the hardest working actor in film over the last two years, and he’s been the highlight of just about all of the films he’s been in) and Mulligan give extraordinary performances, but it’s without a doubt Fassbender’s film. And it’s a testament to the performers’ courage to be actors known for their magnetism (no pun intended for Fassbender) and charisma to allow them to be shown at their least charismatic.

SHAME is a challenging, intelligent, and at times a terrifying film, and it’s absolutely not a piece of art that anyone involved should be ashamed of.
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Post by Admin on Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:26 pm

stewiecat
Don't Talk to Me About Love: Steve McQueen's Shame

Yesterday I was listening to an old download from the movie review podcast, Moviewallas, and they were discussing the Steve McQueen film, Shame. The three reviewers on the program were all unanimous in their liking for the film, but had difficulty articulating why they found it difficult and confronting. I understood their struggle. Shame is a tough film; and inevitably a study of our contemporary brutalised and alienated sexual selves will give rise to conflicted feelings, to emotional responses hard to untangle. But I was frustrated that the three reviewers all repeated the tagline that has become accepted about this complicated film, that it is the “story of sex addiction”. Well, yes and no. It is in part about someone with a compulsion for sex but I think there is something much more interesting going on here.

What fascinates me, what I think is worth teasing out from the near unanimous acceptance by critics of the above summation of the film, is why are we all ignoring Sissy, the sister played so pitch-perfectly by Carey Mulligan? If Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is “addicted” to sex, then surely his sister is equally “addicted” to love? This fucks her up as much as his cravings f&#! him up. Why are we, as viewers of this film, prepared to experience the guilt and indeed the shame of how alienated we have become in understanding our sexual desires but less willing to confront how the contemporary experience of love and falling in love is equally dissociative and depleting? It may be one of the reasons critics have found it so difficult to write eloquently or cogently about this film. They have concentrated on Brandon, maybe because he is (in relative terms only) an easier character. It is Sissy - in what she represents about gender, in what her character conveys of how diseased now the experience of love is - who is the hardest work.

Has anyone before the director Steve McQueen captured the desolate beauty of Manhattan, the Manhattan one experiences when first visiting the city; that sense of a vast loneliness within a crowded metropolis? Of course there are infinite experiences and hence infinite imaginative representations possible of that world city; but that desolation can hit the solitary traveller like a punch, and I haven’t seen it so vividly represented on screen before. And that experience of isolation is critical for the characters in Shame. The city of New York, and in particular the borough of Manhattan, plays a similar role in Shame to the eponymous city in Last Tango in Paris. But whereas Paris in Bernardo Bertolucci’s film represented the culmination of a romantic 19th century myth of love and heterosexual union that was beginning to disintegrate after the sexual and cultural revolutions of the 1960s, the New York of Shame explores a myth of consumer ascendancy. Except, that like the Paris of Tango, we can see the encroachment of decadence and decay. Both Brando’s middle-aged Paul and Fassbender’s younger Brandon share a world-weariness.

Brandon, and to some extent Sissy, are of the same class and culture of the women in the television series, Sex and the City. But whereas that show was a confirmation of consumer culture, in Shame we have the antithesis. This is a world of sterile surfaces, and equally empty interactions; everywhere a cool aesthetic of disassociation, even when one finds themselves in a crowded restaurant or jogging down a midtown street. Brandon’s apartment, all white walls and clean lines, is an apt metaphor for the almost compulsive ordering of desire (whether sexual or materialistic) that this world demands.

And it is this order that is upset with the arrival of his sister. If Brandon’s world is defined by control, Sissy’s is chaos, one in which emotions are constantly on display, and where no feeling is reigned in. The prime moment of the dissonance between the siblings is when she is on stage in an elite bar, and she performs, of course, a version of ‘New York, New York’: but in this instance triumphalism is replaced by hesitancy. It is an arresting moment precisely because she invests that hoary old chestnut of a classic with melancholy. This is the New York of failed promise, of self-doubt not self-aggrandising. Sissy’s performance demands of Brandon an emotional response, as does her whole interaction with him; and, of course, this is exactly what Brandon can’t give her. In demanding it of him, his ordered world begins to fall apart.

But I think it would be a mistake to walk away from this film believing it is espousing the authenticity of emotion over the supposed lie of disengagement. It is clear that Sissy’s investment in her emotional life, her surrendering to love, is as equally damaging as Brandon’s chasing after his next sexual high. Sissy loves too much, and in doing so, she is even more vulnerable than her brother. I think the film’s strength, why it leads to such complicated responses in us as an audience, is that it does not surrender to the romantic fallacies of love. The chasing after excess, whether sexual or romantic, is what blights the lives of the characters in Shame. And this pursuit of excess can’t be laid at the feet of the usual, clichéd suspects: a broken home, childhood abuse, the unexamined life. Excess is essential to the motor of consumer culture. Both Brandon and Sissy want, demand, expect too much. She wants it from her relationships, to all men, including her brother; he thinks he can control it by corralling it into the act of sex. But consumerism requires desire to constantly regenerate: fulfillment is never impossible. The long clinical tracking shots in this film, and also the austere long takes where the camera is still, make this clear: there is never any true stillness, there is always something at the edge of the frame that appears out of our reach. This is also a movie of distanced observation: Brandon and Sissy are as exposed as wriggling creatures under a microscopic lens. It is fitting for the shared compulsion that underlies their respective approaches to sex and love has something of the mechanical, unwavering obsessiveness of the insect world. And so, in this film, Manhattan, for all its riches, for all its beauty, is their anthill.

I want to resist a reading of Shame that posits a complacent and conventionally puritan and gendered reading of the characters. I was relieved, for example, that the film did not attempt to psychoanalyse the siblings, that we were not let off the hook with a detailed explanation of their childhood. There was damage there, the film explicitly acknowledges this in one of the exchanges between brother and sister, but in allowing us to project our own history into the unfolding narrative, it implicates all of us in its dissection of contemporary sexual and emotional mores. The alienation between love partners, between siblings, can be as profound as the distance between the prostitute and the client. And to walk away from this film reducing it to a critique of sex addiction is to willfully deny the erotic charge and beauty of its final moments. The orgy at the end of the film is a delirious affirmation of the ecstasy of sexual union. It is the only point of the film where we witness Brandon giving himself over to something that we might describe as joy. It is an arousing scene, playful and warm, and the point where the mise-en-scéne abandons the austere discipline of stillness or controlled movement to give us close-ups, fast cutting, the look and texture of flesh on flesh. But it is only temporary relief from the bleakness. The last shot leaves us with a question, whether Brandon’s happiness will dissolve with the subsiding of orgasm? But at least he experiences those moments of joy. With Sissy, addicted to love, where does she find joy?

There are missteps in Shame, moments where McQueen aestheticises the emotional in ways that are unnecessary. I am thinking of a scene in the rain where Brandon gives himself over to crying. It is too self-consciously arty a shot, and reminded me of the one false moment in McQueen’s’ previous film, Hunger, where a white feather floats in slow motion in the room where Bobby Sands is dying. Maybe the visual artist in McQueen can’t resist the symbolic pull of such imagery. But he should resist. He doesn’t need them and they in fact detract from the artistic and humanistic veracity of his films.

I also think the sequence where Brandon goes to a gay sex club is misjudged. Not that it doesn’t make sense for his character: we do understand why it would be a relief for him to chase anonymous sex in the masculine world of the club. But the sequence unravels too quickly and the editing compromises the erotics. It comes across like a failure of nerve that in taking Brandon to that point the filmmakers suddenly became nervous of fully exploring the implications of such desire. I think the choice to take him there is absolutely right for the character. It may be the confusion of the editing in this sequence, and of the acting (it was the one moment where I faltered in my trust of Fassbender’s performance), that make it unsuccessful. But it doesn’t compromise my respect for this film and in what it is attempting to communicate. The director and his co-writer, Abi Morgan, must have dug very deep to be so honest about the way our experiences of sex and love are so confused and compromised by the omnipotence of consumption. It isn’t comfortable or easy to come to the truth that there is no clear line separating love and sex from pornography and the market anymore. The occasional misstep doesn’t matter when the work has integrity. (And I should be clear that I don’t think the clumsiness in these scenes is a result of contemptuous or ignorant homophobia. I think there is something that remains unresolved in the conception of Brandon, that we glimpse the possibility of a bisexual or at least polymorphously perverse aspect to his sexuality. One can only speculate endlessly and fruitlessly on the reasons, both artistic and pragmatic, for why that conception remains underdeveloped. Female bisexuality features prominently and pleasurably in the final orgy scene and maybe that is another reason for why the sex scene between the men jars. It is a banal depiction of sex club culture, and apart from that one misfire of Fassbender crying in the rain, it grates because the rest of the film is so rigorously careful to challenge our cultural myths of gender, relationships and sex.)

Shame is indebted to Last Tango in Paris; like that great earlier film it is unafraid to examine our conflicted, difficult emotional responses to sex, and to treat that subject seriously and realistically. Bertolucci’s filmmaking swoons, and McQueen doesn’t share that aesthetic (except for that final scene, which I took to be a homage to the earlier film): it isn’t through formalism that McQueen acknowledges his debt. But like the Bertolucci film, Shame demands a maturity from its audience. It presupposes that we come to this film with a certain body of experience, that the piercing, acute pain of real shame has affected us. And real shame is not just fear or disgust or abhorrence for the body and what the body is and does. That is the puritanical adolescent’s conception of sex. That so many reviewers seem to share this view, that all they can see is a film “about sex addiction”, tells us a lot about the current state of Anglophone film criticism. Wedded to a Manichean, righteous view of the world – where masculinity and sex is bad, femininity and love is good – one can only suspect that our film critics are still lost in adolescence. Real shame is experienced most deeply through who we hurt and who we betray and who we f&#! up when we are in love. That’s the real danger of the near-incestuous relationship that Brandon and Sissy have together. He doesn’t want her out of his apartment because his obsession with sex makes him cold and unfeeling. He is cold and unfeeling because he knows what he is capable of doing as a man in a relationship. He knows how he can hurt and be hurt. And Sissy knows this as well. It is the great howl at the centre of our sexual lives, this shame we inflict on each other. What the modern world gives us is a seemingly infinite amount of distractions, gadgets and virtual worlds, through which we can ignore or reject the responsibility of dealing with this hard truth. Anyone who thinks that Brandon would be a better human being by giving up the ecstasy of casual sex and settling down with a good woman (or that Sissy can be saved by a decent man, by “true love”) is someone who knows nothing of shame. This is a grown up film. Those who reduce it to a study of sex addiction are caught up in the perpetual adolescence that this film so coolly, so cruelly, condemns.

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